Google rebuts DOJ objections to digital book deal

Google, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., countered that argument by pointing out rivals Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. both made digital copies of books only to abandon their efforts after concluding the projects didn’t make good business sense.

Microsoft and Yahoo are a part of a group trying to persuade Chin to reject the book agreement.

“It is well within Microsoft’s reach to resume scanning books if it so chooses,” Google said its documents.

Google has made digital copies of more than 12 million books during the past five years “at an enormous cost,” according to its filing. But the company has only been able to show snippets from most of those books because of a copyright dispute that culminated in the lawsuit filed in 2005 by groups representing U.S. authors and publishers.

The proposed settlement would unlock Google’s electronic library and allow the company to sell the titles in competition with Inc. and other merchants. Most of the money from the sales would go to the publishers and authors.

The Justice Department believes this arrangement could create a literary cartel that would drive up prices, a notion that Google dismissed in its filing.

“Google is a new entrant and currently has zero percent share in any book market,” the company’s lawyers argued. “It does not have monopoly power, and there is no ‘dangerous probability’ that it will acquire such power.”

Researchers and educators are watching the court battle with great interest. If the settlement is approved, it could unlock a treasure trove of knowledge, with rare and out-of-print books becoming available online. Stanford University has expressed its support for the revised Google settlement, but a coalition of other researchers is against it.

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